Travel

See the Cool Side of Paris with These Unexpected Escapades

Appreciate the cliches without being a cliche.

Catarina Belova/Shutterstock
Catarina Belova/Shutterstock
Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Of all the great cities I’ve lived in across the world, it’s hard to argue that any of them stir as much longing and adoration as Paris. The streets overflow with grand old buildings, ornate yet simple chairs and tables on the sidewalks, troves of art, and (of course) richly decadent food… this list could go on and on. The point that hardly needs be made is that Paris is fantastique.

But the most common complaint usually involves the overcrowded tourist sites. It is true, for example, that the wealth of beauty afforded by the Louvre can get obscured behind the hordes of line-wearied visitors aggressively vying for the best selfie position.

But your experience doesn’t have to be tousled by such touristic tempests. Paris has plenty to offer if you’re looking to escape the crowd and venture further off the radar, whether you’ve already seen the highlights, or if you’re looking to do a mix of your Eiffel Tower whatnots with your dive bars and funky markets. Luckily, we have here for you suggestions ranging from slightly less frequented alternatives to the usual hotspots and hidden corners where few tourists roam.

Joao Paulo V Tinoco/Shutterstock
Joao Paulo V Tinoco/Shutterstock
Joao Paulo V Tinoco/Shutterstock

Stay in newly trending neighborhoods

There are many beautiful districts or arrondissements throughout Paris, with the most popular among visitors being those nearest the river such as Montparnasse, the upper Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain, and Les Halles, as well as Bastille and lower Montmartre. But if you’re willing to find accommodations in lesser known regions, you’ll not only avoid the crowds, you can ease the strain on your wallet too. Less cost and crowding don’t mean less in the way of things to do, either. These neighborhoods are rich with delicious restaurants, artistic experiences, pretty parks and streets, and everything else that brought you to Paris in the first place.

Jaures, for example, is located in the north-central part of the city, and it offers art galleries, outdoor markets, the Rue LaFayette thoroughfare painted by Van Gogh, and traditional French diners mixed in with flavorful eats from the immigrant community. It also provides convenient access to the rest of the city via the Stalingrad and Juares metro stops.

Meanwhile the lower Latin Quarter and upper Montmartre areas provide easy access to these popular districts while avoiding some of the bustle and expense. And the eastern segments of the city like Charonne, Pere Lachaise, and Bel-Air are gaining more buzz, as more and more businesses are pushed outward by rising rents in the city center.

photo.ua/Shutterstock
photo.ua/Shutterstock
photo.ua/Shutterstock

Experience arts beyond the Louvre

As mentioned, the Louvre can be an intimidating and draining destination. Located just over the river, however, is Musee D’Orsay. While it’s certainly popular in its own right, D’Orsay isn’t quite as overrun as its more famous cousin. It’s also more compact and focused, making it a somewhat less daunting collection. But that doesn’t mean it skimps on the amazing art.

From celebrated painters like Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Courbet, and way too many others to list, the collection is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Plus there’s an array of sculptures by Rodin and an expansive selection of classical sculptures portraying figures and scenes from myth and history. The museum is housed in a historic train station that is uniquely gorgeous.

If you’re looking for some artist haunts with a current lively kick, the discrete Au Lapin Agile is a cabaret club that has existed since the 1860s, located on the upper shoulders of Montmartre. During its heyday of the early 1900s, it became the hangout of artists like Picasso, Apollinaire, Modigliani, and more, and there’s an apocryphal story that Picasso used to pay for his meals with drawings on napkins. Today you can still go to Au Lapin Agile for drinks and to watch performances by poets, singers, and cabaret troops.

For some bookish arts, there’s Maison de Balzac. Long before there was an MCU, Honore de Balzac created the shared universe of La Comedie Humaine, a sprawling collection of over 100 novels that is widely considered one of the greatest literary achievements of all time. Maison de Balzac is the author’s home, where he did much of his writing. Located just over the river from the Eiffel Tower, it’s a quiet place to take a break from the throngs of the more crowded sites nearby.

PAINPAIN
PAINPAIN
PAINPAIN

Eat duck, pastries, and North African delicacies

In the heart of Montmartre you’ll find (or smell) Pain Pain, a traditional French bakery and patisserie that is famous for its baguettes and wide-ranging pastries. The baguettes are, of course, a must (you know, Paris). As far as pastries go, choose whichever looks the most delicious, and you can’t go wrong.

Tucked away on the eastern edge of the Latin Quarter is Al Mosaic, a North African spot that offers traditional dishes from Tunisia and Morocco. This is an outstanding place to get a hardy meal after a day of exploring the city’s Left Bank. The lamb, in particular, and couscous are a must.

Over in the Juares neighborhood, Le Jaures Café offers a lovely old-Paris vibe, top-shelf service, and a delicious menu, all at a surprisingly affordable price. The duck with green pepper sauce is drool-worthy, though don’t thumb your nose at the steak with mushroom sauce, either. And don’t forget to get a round or two of escargot.

Le Jaures Café has a surprisingly low rating on Google, but ignore that. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about. Over 15 years of eating here has consistently shown a delightful dining experience.

Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock
Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock
Viacheslav Lopatin/Shutterstock

Haunt the Paris cemeteries

Through the centuries, Paris has been home to many of history’s greatest figures, both during their lives and afterwards. Accordingly, the city boasts several impressive cemeteries.

The most renowned is inarguably Pere Lachaise, the most famed residents being Jim Morrison, Balzac, Oscar Wilde, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Moliere, Chopin, and Richard Wright, among many others.

Less frequented are the cemeteries Montmartre and Montparnasse, which respectively host the likes of Alexandre Dumas, Dalida, Truffaut, Stendhal and Charles Baudelaire, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg, and Samuel Beckett, and on and on.

These are not only photogenic and historic places to spend an afternoon, they provide a quiet place to escape from the cacophony of the city. It’s easy to spend hours on end exploring their chaotic hodgepodges of elaborate statues and tombs overflowing with ivy and drooping trees.

Rrrainbow/Shutterstock
Rrrainbow/Shutterstock
Rrrainbow/Shutterstock

Stop to smell the flowers at Jardin des Plantes

Paris has no shortage of wonderful places to sit outside and enjoy a sunny day, with the Luxembourg Gardens perhaps being the most visited park. Just east, however, is Jardin des Plantes, a stunning botanical garden that offers paths to meander through the flowers, plots of grass and benches for kicking back, a zoo plus collection of dinosaur bones, and a restored 19th century hothouse lush with tropical flora.

Bisou.
Bisou.
Bisou.

Go for classy cocktails or dive-bar tropical

Bisou. (the period is part of the name) is a sweet little place in the extremely popular Oberkampf district. Its decor leans hard into the color pink, and it has quintessential outdoor seating for people-watching. It also has a delightfully eccentric cocktail menu. Let’s put it this way: here you’ll find some uber-Instagrammable drinks to wow your people back home.

Located a few dozen meters south of the metro station in the infamously, delightfully sleazy district Pigalle, Dirty Dick is a dark tiki-dive where you’ll find an affable blend of local boozers and international visitors. It’s primarily known for its unique, tropical-themed drink menu and dimly-lit Hawaiian décor. Fun historical note: the bar was first launched in 1936 as a sex club operated by the Corsican mafia, hence the name.

I’ll say outright that you’re not coming to New York Cafe for the bar itself, which is merely adequate. What you are coming for is the opportunity to croon (or caterwaul) some karaoke with the locals. This is an exceedingly fun place to drink late into the night, sing a few tunes, and make some new friends. As an added bonus it’s in the fun Rue Mouffetard neighborhood.

Dom Dada/Flickr
Dom Dada/Flickr
Dom Dada/Flickr

Shop the markets of Barbes-Rochechouart

On the eastern shoulder of the Montmartre bluffs is the neighborhood Barbes-Rochechouart, a largely immigrant-inhabited district that’s thick with food and clothing markets. Marché Barbes is probably the most highly-regarded of these, as it is where many of the city’s top chefs go to acquire their ingredients.

Admittedly the neighborhood has something of a bad reputation, but I’ve spent a lot of time here during all hours, and found it to be just like any other city environment. As in any major urban area, be aware of your surroundings and you shouldn’t have issues.

bensliman hassan/Shutterstock
bensliman hassan/Shutterstock
bensliman hassan/Shutterstock

Hit up late-night river parties

While the Parisian stretch along the Seine tends to be its most tourist-infested region, if you know where to go late at night (we’re talking 2-4 am late) you can stumble upon some uniquely local after-parties that can include (but are not limited to) live music, drum circles, Romani dancing, and general boozery.

The most lively version I’ve seen has been at the Arenes amphitheater in Jardin Tino Rossi. Pont Neuf on Ile de la Cite also has its moments, though you should only venture there late at night if there’s already a crowd and you’re with people. A more regulated version of this can be found along Promenade Marceline Loridan-Ivens and Promenade Edouard Glissant, though in these cases you’re leaning into more popular fare.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Nick Hilden is a travel, fitness, arts, and fiction writer whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Men’s Health, The Daily Beast, Vice, Greatist, and more. You can follow his weird adventures via Instagram or Twitter.

Travel

Airbnb’s New Tool Makes it Easy to Discover Homes You Didn’t Know Existed

And provides comprehensive protection in travel, included for free with every stay.

airbnb new features

We’re living in a new world of travel, which means we’re looking for new destinations and new ways to find places to stay. Airbnb is one of the most popular booking platforms for travellers, and for the first time in a decade, they’ve launched their biggest change yet.

The new tools help travellers find unique homes and provide more options for longer stays.

“The way people travel has changed forever. We’re introducing the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade,” said Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-Founder of Airbnb.

Airbnb Categories

Millions of people are now more flexible about where they live and work. But travel search has been the same for 25 years—you enter a location and dates into a search box. Most of us can only think of a few dozen cities to type into the search box, but there are Airbnbs in 100,000 towns and cities worldwide.

When you open Airbnb, you’re presented with 56 categories that organize homes based on their style, location, or proximity to a travel activity. When you search for a destination, your search results are also organized by categories relevant to that destination. As you view different categories, the map intelligently zooms to show you where the homes are located.

Airbnb Categories uses machine learning to analyze titles, written descriptions, photo captions, structured data from Hosts, and reviews from guests. Airbnb’s curation team members review listings and hand-pick featured photos—so if a listing is in the Amazing Pools Category, the first photo shows a pool. Then, each category goes through a final check to help ensure consistency and photo quality.

The 56 Airbnb Categories include more than 4 million unique homes that are made possible by Hosts all around the world. Airbnb Categories organize homes by what makes them unique, which helps people discover places they wouldn’t have otherwise found. This can help alleviate over-tourism by redistributing travel to new locations beyond the same popular destinations.

Split Stays

In the last three months, nearly half of the nights booked on Airbnb were for a week or more trips. Split Stays is an innovative new feature that splits your trip between two homes. With Split Stays, you will typically see around 40% more listings when searching for longer stays.

When searching a specific destination, Split Stays automatically appear in your search results. They also appear within 14 categories—including Camping, National Parks, Skiing, and Surfing—to inspire you to stay in two destinations as part of a longer trip. For example, when browsing the Skiing Category, Split Stays might suggest a pair of homes near Thredbo and Mt. Hotham.

When viewing Split Stays on a map, an animated line visually connects the two homes to show you the distance between them and the sequence of the stays. Once you select a Split Stay, you’re guided through an easy-to-use interface to book each stay, one home at a time.

MORE: These Are Australia’s 10 Most Wishlisted Airbnb Stays

Aircover for Guests

This northern and southern winter, millions of people will travel for the first time since the pandemic’s start. AirCover is the most comprehensive protection in travel. AirCover is always included and always free, and it represents the biggest upgrade to Airbnb customer service in a decade.

With AirCover, you’re covered by four protections every time you stay on Airbnb:

  • Booking Protection Guarantee – In the unlikely event a Host needs to cancel your booking within 30 days of check-in, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • Check-In Guarantee – If you can’t check into your home and the Host cannot resolve the issue, Airbnb will find you a similar or better home for the length of your original stay or get a refund.
  • Get-What-You-Booked Guarantee – If at any time during your stay you find your listing isn’t as advertised—for example, the refrigerator stops working and your Host can’t easily fix it, or there are fewer bedrooms than listed—you’ll have three days to report it and Airbnb will find you a similar or better home or refund you.
  • 24-hour Safety Line – If you ever feel unsafe, you’ll get priority access to specially-trained safety agents, day or night.

AirCover has been designed directly into the Airbnb app and website, making it easy for you to contact an agent and resolve issues quickly. There is a team of specially trained agents for last-minute rebooking assistance. Airbnb also has significantly expanded its 24-hour safety line to cover 16 languages.

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